S/S–NSC Files, Lot 63 D 351, NSC 114 Series

Policy Planning Staff Memorandum1

top secret

Re Mr. Bohlen’s Memorandum of September 212

There seem to me to be two explicit questions and one implicit question raised by the Bohlen memorandum of September 21. The two explicit questions are:

Whether, in an NSC paper, there is any utility in speculating on probable Soviet intentions, and
What can be said about these intentions if the answer to the first question is affirmative?

The implicit question is whether the risks involved in our relations with the Soviet Union are such as to warrant the effort and the sacrifices, both economic and political, envisaged by the programs undertaken in the last 18 months and by such programs as they are currently being modified.

I. The Utility of Including an Analysis of Soviet Intentions in an NSC Paper

It seems to me to be clear that Soviet action, however opportunistic, cannot be and is not taken except on the basis of certain objectives which we have to try to define for ourselves as clearly and accurately as we can. It seems equally clear to me that no action can be or is taken by us except on the basis of some assumption about Soviet intentions, whether that assumption is implicit or explicit.

With the U.S. Government organized as it is, it is both necessary and useful to be as precise as possible in this difficult and complicated field and to seek an extensive comprehension of and agreement with our analysis throughout the Government. It is not possible for the President or the Secretary of State to control individually every relevant action undertaken by the U.S. Government. If the State Department, as well as the JCS and the rest of the Defense Establishment, the CIA, the ODM, Civilian Defense, ECA, etc., are to pull together, we need more agreement rather than less on certain fundamental points, of which probable Soviet intentions is certainly one. If every government official arrives at conclusions based on differing and personal images of the Soviet Union, the policy of the United States will soon be in a chaotic state.

I doubt whether any of the work which the NSC has been doing in the last two years, which I consider to have been useful, could continue if the view is adopted that no agreed, explicit analysis of Soviet intentions should be attempted. I assume, from his memorandum, although the implication is otherwise, that Chip would be agreeable to the inclusion in NSC papers of a general statement of Soviet intentions to the effect that the Soviet Union is “a heavily armed great power, which by its basic doctrine and the form of its state organization is implacably and unappeasably hostile to the United States and other free countries”. What Chip appears to object to is an attempt to analyze Soviet intentions beyond these very broad generalizations. Surely the State Department has an obligation to give somewhat more precise guide lines for dealing with the problems confronting the U.S. Government.

II. What Can be Said About Probable Soviet Intentions

The Bohlen memorandum suggests a considerable revision of the draft NSC paper under discussion, if it is to include any extensive [Page 174] analysis of Soviet intentions. These revisions must rest on a disagreement with the paper, but it is difficult to isolate the disagreement.

The specific objections appear to be to any concept of a “Soviet design for world domination”; any idea of a Soviet “blueprint” or “timetable” for the achievement of that goal; any idea of a Soviet impulse toward “dynamic extension of their authority” in the direction of achievement of that goal; and, for that matter, any “metaphysical speculations on general Soviet intentions”.

It might be helpful to determine the area of common agreement in order to isolate the area of disagreement.

It is agreed that: (1) the Soviet Union is “implacably and unappeasably hostile” to the Free World; (2) the Soviet Union will act opportunistically in the light of this implacable hostility; and (3) there is a great disparity between the present capabilities of the two opposing systems—a disparity unfavorable to the West except with respect to atomic energy and, even in that respect, our relatively favorable position is being reduced.

If we accept as facts that the U.S.S.R. is implacably hostile, that they have dangerously superior relative capabilities for local or limited actions, and that they will act opportunistically, then it seems to me that the unavoidable conclusion is that the U.S.S.R. will exercise their capabilities at any time and place they conceive to be favorable to them. If the relative capabilities of the West should decline still further, then it seems to me you would have to conclude also that the Soviet Union would continue to exercise their capabilities as favorable opportunities presented themselves until all possibility of a serious threat to the U.S.S.R. had been overcome. I do not consider this a “metaphysical” analysis of Russian intentions, and I do think it supports the view that the U.S.S.R. has an impulse to an extension of their authority and the objective of removing all serious threats to them which, in the long run, would amount to a domination of the world.

As I read them, the suggested revisions in the Bohlen memorandum could lead to these conclusions, but I assume Chip must believe there are certain unspecified limitations on the “implacable hostility” of the U.S.S.R. and the “pragmatic and opportunistic nature of Soviet policy”.

The remaining specific objection in the Bohlen memorandum relates to the idea of a “blueprint” or “timetable”. We also reject this idea, as does the draft paper.

III. Are the Risks Involved in Our Relations With the U.S.S.R. such as To Warrant the Effort and the Sacrifices Envisaged by the Programs Now in Effect or as Currently Being Modified

If the Soviet impulse to a “dynamic extension of its authority” does not exist or exists in only a very limited sense, and if the Soviet Union does not seek to dominate the world by controlling or rendering impotent [Page 175] all power opposed to it, then the sacrifices, both economic and political, envisaged by present programs and modifications of them currently under review might be unwise and even unnecessary.

In his suggested revisions of the draft NSC paper, Chip states that it is “obvious that the sooner this state of preparedness could be reached the better” but “the rate of tempo of our armament build-up should be more related to what the economics of the free world can support without retrogression and this should be the controlling factor rather than any timetable based upon probable Soviet intentions and capabilities”.

There is nothing in the draft paper inconsistent with the idea that the tempo of the military build-up in the free world must bear a close relation to the ability of the economies of the free world to support the build-up. In fact, the draft states that “there are, in short, definite limits to the size of the defense effort each European country can safely make—that is, limits which cannot be exceeded without risking internal difficulties which would prejudice the total effort”. The most rapid way to achieve a build-up may be to go slow for a while, and this is the problem that will undergo a careful review of the “Wisemen”.3

There may be, however, a considerable difference in the sacrifices the free world decides are necessary if we determine our programs without a close regard for Soviet intentions and capabilities.

If we can assume Soviet intentions are not aggressive and their capabilities will not be used opportunistically to expand and extend Soviet authority, our build-up will have very little bearing on our position. But if that assumption is wrong, the tempo of our build-up, and the sacrifices it will involve, are directly related to our ability to limit Soviet freedom of action and increase our own, so that while we might conclude that any increased sacrifices would be unwise at present, we would come to that conclusion only after a careful balancing of the disadvantages of continuing the disparity of capabilities and the dangers that would exist in the meantime as a result of Soviet intentions.

It is, therefore, the question implicitly raised in the Bohlen memorandum that indicates most vividly the necessity for a generally accepted analysis of Soviet intentions and demonstrates most clearly the inadequacy of relying on such generalizations as the “implacable hostility” of the U.S.S.R.

I have not included in this memorandum certain additional difficulties that I have with some of the specific revisions suggested in the Bohlen memorandum, but in general they relate to Chip’s comments on the NSC 68 series which do not seem to me to be supported by any information I have.

  1. Presumably drafted by Paul H. Nitze, Director of the Policy Planning Staff, for the Secretary of State.
  2. supra.
  3. Reference is to the executive body of the Temporary Council Committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. For documentation on U.S. participation in NATO, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.